He accompanied Tino Sehgal to Japan by train, right across Russia. For six weeks, he travelled with the artist who does not want to fly. Jan Mot, a reluctant Brussels gallery owner, sees a gallery as a way to make his life interesting. He recently opened a second gallery in Mexico City.
Nothing would have indicated that art historian Jan Mot (b. Brussels, 1964) was going to become a gallery owner. His Master’s thesis at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam dealt with an 18th-century renovation of the Uffizi Gallery, and he briefly toyed with the idea of obtaining a PhD. He found it hard to conceive of a gallery as more than a manifestation of a single person, notably the gallery owner. For him, the function of gallery owner was difficult to distinguish from the personality of the gallery owner. Mixing roles in this way was not something in which Jan Mot saw himself getting involved. In 1993, together with his partner at the time, he began organizing exhibitions in their Brussels home. In fact, they did everything possible not to present themselves as a form of gallery. In the same period, Mot organized exhibitions at other locations. Still, the feeling was creeping up on him that as a curator, he was unable to contribute anything substantial. ‘Contacts with museums were difficult. The Belgian art world at the time was very small and closed. Jan Hoet and Flor Bex were at the helm and they would not be leaving anytime soon. The atmosphere was not a friendly one. Moreover, independent curators were still very few and far between. I knew Moritz Küng and Hans Ulrich Obrist, and that was all.’ Jan Mot did not see a future for himself as a curator. He did not want to be dependent on commissions and, most of all, he wanted to establish a rhythm of his own.
In 1995, Jan Mot's ‘galerie en chambre’ was accepted by the Art Brussels art fair, in Mot's opinion because there was no immediate oversupply of galleries at the time. This public moment was an important turning point. As he had no official stable of artists, several artists were asked to work together in the context of the art fair. Amongst others, Philip Akkerman, Beat Streuli and Rineke Dijkstra took part. The presentation drew attention, notably because of Dijkstra’s photographs. Important figures from the art world came to have a look, including Jay Jopling of White Cube. This visibility and the reactions stimulated Mot to set out in search of a separate space, as well as to take a serious approach to his search for new artists.
More on galleries in Metropolis M no. 5-2012 in the special 'Galleries: Commerce or Idealism?', with:
- an article by Domeniek Ruyters on the self-conscious galleries in Amsterdam;
- Uta Grosenick on the pioneers of the art market;
- column on the adventurous gallery scene of Istanbul
+ a free copy of the catalogue of the Amsterdam Pavilion - 9th Shanghai Biennale